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Welcome to Lassen Volcanic National Park located in Northern California. This California national park is one of the most underrated national parks I’ve explored.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is delighted with many surprises — from boiling mud pots, and hikes, to wildlife, there was everything you could hope for and more.

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When it comes to things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park, this travel guide will give you some ideas on how to spend your time. The big takeaway? A slow-paced weekend here will give you an epic way to experience the park. It’s not one to rush through, not one that you can go from one spot to the next.

Many of the gems indeed require some time and the reward far exceeds the effort. For those looking for adventure in the untouched outdoors, you won’t want to miss Lassen Volcanic National Park.

The sweet takeaway from the whole trip here was that there are still gems in California not entirely overran by tourism. The park is home to hikes that will take you to backcountry lakes and creeks.

So it’s with great joy that I share this travel guide to Lassen Volcanic National Park. Mostly because as a local to Northern California, I’m still discovering gems like this. And importantly, it’s another opportunity to be socially distanced and connected to nature.

A Guide to Lassen Volcanic National Park


A Guide to Visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park

What to Know Before Visiting Lassen National Park

Gas
The big struggle for us was getting gas as we were in a Westfalia that required a frequent fillup and only took 91. You will want to fill up before arriving (Chico/Redding) as there is one gas station in the park at Manzanita Campground serving only 87. The nearest gas stations are located in Chester or Old Station, each around 30 minutes out of the park.

Food
You will most likely need to bring all meals if staying in the park or visiting mid-week. There are some services outside of the park, just have to be okay with making the drive. At Manzanita Lake, the camper store is open which does have food.

When Is the Best Time of Year to Visit Lassen?
If you search images of the park, you’ll notice the area does get quite a bit of snow. Road closures do occur, so I’d personally recommend this as a late spring to early fall destination if you plan to hike. Some hiking trails do close to snow hazards and this is all updated on the NPS website.

How much time do you need in Lassen National Park?
We did two nights and didn’t quite get to it all. I think three nights would be better to have another sunset or truly spend a full three days/two nights.

Safety
One of the few things to consider when visiting is wildlife, especially if you plan to go backpacking. It is a bear country, so be bear-aware when hiking.


Where to Stay Near The Park

1. Rent a Westfalia, RV or Trailer

A Guide to Visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park

There are a few options for your stay in the area. We opted to rent a Westfalia using Outdoorsy. It was such a wonderful experience and a great way to explore the park. The benefit of having the Westfalia was that we had a kitchen/fridge with us at all times. We parked at a campsite south of the park and will share details below.

If you’re looking for more RVs or trailers to rent, I’d recommend looking at Outdoorsy for options in your area.

2. Camp at Mill Creek Resort Campground

Image via Mill Creek Resort

This is where we parked our Westfalia at each night. This private campground nestled right next to a creek is truly a gem and one of the most stunning locations I’ve seen. Each of the campsites has ample room with a total of 17 spots ($20 a night/book in advance). They have spots to park RV’s as well and offer private cabins for rent as an alternative. The location is around 30 minutes into the park. There are community showers/flush toilets as well. For those looking for a camping experience that is not stacked up with people, this is it. I’d recommend spots 11-17 if you can.

3. Camp at Manzanita Lake Campground

Image via National Park Service

With Mill Creek Resort being my preference, I’d still recommend there first if possible. Since many have sent messages that they’re full for your dates, I’d then recommend Manzanita Lake Campground as an alternate.

4. Highlands Ranch Resort

Image via National Park Service

We drove by Highland Ranch Resort in Mill Creek a few times and it looked like a great option for those looking for a hotel experience. It’s not too far from the park and offers an option if you’re not camping or looking for a cabin.

5. Glamping (Further Away from the Park)

Alternatively, there are some glamping options further away from the park that you could use as day trips to get there. Check out these epic glamping spots in California.


Things to Do in Lassen Volcanic National Park

1. Explore Bumpass Hell

One of the most active geothermal areas in all of the parks is Bumpass Hell. From boiling mud pots to turquoise bubbling waters, this trail takes you out to a hot spring area.

Boardwalks are laid out so you can safely visit the geothermal areas and boiling mud parts of this part of the park. Please stay on the trail here as you discover the steaming fumaroles. Another great area to see geothermal activity in the park is Sulphur Works (park in the lot and walk along the side of the road to see).

2. Soak in the Views at Lake Helen

A Guide to Visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park

Certainly, a stunning lake in the area, Lake Helen’s incredible colors are one of a kind. In the background, you’ll see views of Lassen Peak which makes for a wonderful pitstop for a lunch break while exploring the park. The clear mountain lakes and meadows frecked with wildflowers make this a special part of the park.

3. Stroll and Catch the Sunset at Manzanita Lake

My favorite lake in the park was Manzanita as it has a wonderful spot for recreation and enjoying the outdoors. You can fish on the lake here, rent kayaks, and more. You’ll find a trail that loops around the lake and gives some incredible views of the north part of the park.

4. Hike Up Cinder Cone

If you do one large hike outside of Lassen Peak, let it be Cinder Cone. You will need to drive out of the park and then down a dirt road which brings you to the trailhead which starts at Butte Lake Campground.

As you climb up this volcano, you’ll find the trail is very challenging due to the gravel nature of the trail. Lassen is home to many types of volcanos, so you’ll really get to enjoy this unique cone volcano.

But once you get to the top of it, the views are incredible. One of the unique things you can see here is the Painted Dunes (recommend 70-200mm lens to capture). This would be an epic spot for sunrise or sunset as well.

5. Explore Other Hiking Trails

A Guide to Visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park

One of the most famous trails is to make the climb up Lassen Peak (one of the largest plug dome volcanos in the world). You’ll need some time and effort to do this, I recommend referring to All Trails for a guide. The other hike we did which we loved was King’s Creek (we did a short loop). It follows along the creek and then steep stairs border a waterfall.

6. Go Stargazing in the Park

If you’re into stargazing, the lack of light pollution here makes for one of the best spots to do so. There are a few locations in the park that works well, I’d recommend at Manzanita Lake or Lake Helen where there is ample space to look up at the sky. I know a lot of people travel here just for this alone as the skies are often crystal clear here.


What to Pack for a Trip to Lassen

You’re going to want many layers for your trip here as the weather is always cooler than the rest of California due to the elevation. Hiking gear is also recommended. Find my full hiking essentials guide here.

I’d also recommend bringing snacks, water, and other provisions necessary for your trip.


Frequently Asked Questions About Lassen Volcanic National Park

Where is Lassen Volcanic National Park?

This is the ultimate road trip destination when it comes to visiting national parks. You’ll certainly need a car to get to Volcanic National Park. It’s around 3.5 hours from Sacramento by car. Its location is remote when it comes to nearby destinations. The closest major cities would be Redding or Red Bluff. You can easily come here on a road trip through California if you’re headed north.

Is Lassen Volcanic National Park Worth Visiting?

If you’re looking for an underrated national park to visit with plenty of open space, absolutely. The landscape here is vast and diverse, offering an opportunity to have a wide range of experiences. Close to the town of Chester, the park is known for its volcanoes, geothermal activity, and adventurous hiking. It is one of the most epic places to visit in California.

What is the Weather in Lassen Volcanic National Park?

As the national park is located quite north, there is heavy snowfall during the winter months. You’ll find that some roads may have closures. The weather is mild during the summer months and it is recommended to have layers as it does cool off.


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Xx,
Jessica

2 Comments

  1. Wow! I am blown away by how beautiful that park is. I have so many, many places that I want to travel to on my bucket list already … the list just grew bigger. 8D
    Thank you for a beautiful and inspiring photo series and article.
    Anita xxx

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